Jason Bourne Review
I've got a really good idea. Let's try and kill Jason Bourne. It worked out well for the last guy.
Returning to the franchise that they defined, the real Jason Bourne – Matt Damon – and his director of choice – Paul Greengrass – remind us of everything we've been missing.Unfortunately, as much as it is great to have them back – and it is great – there was a cost to their absence for the last instalment, with the star/director team forced to retread old ground. The plan to bring Bourne back into his own franchise was clearly, to the studio at least, a simple case of "do it the same as before, only bigger and louder", and after the enjoyable but ultimately dead end spin-off, The Bourne Legacy, it would appear that neither Greengrass nor Damon were in a position to argue.And so, rather than an intimate, personal tale of revenge – both old and new – between two seasoned veteran assassins whose history crosses decades and carries with it a weight of irreconcilable animosity and pure bloodlust, Jason Bourne plays it safe. It instead injects this inspired, small-scale premise into a much grander affair, which throws every large scale conspiracy plot into the mix and has yet another shady CIA head honcho's palms sweating at the name 'Jason Bourne'.
A desperately haggard Tommy Lee Jones steps into the shoes of ill-fated predecessors Chris Cooper and Brian Cox, playing – this time around – the Director of the CIA, although the title is irrelevant; essentially he's just a big intelligence chief with a shady background and a desperate fear of what damage the exiled black ops prototype Jason Bourne can do to the Agency and, more pointedly, him. It's tiring, and overly familiar – has anybody really had a positive outcome from trying to hunt Jason Bourne down, particularly when he's minding his own business bruising knuckles in the desert.
Nevertheless, it establishes the basic premise, and sets things in motion for a convoluted tale of the CIA trying to breach privacy laws with the help of an Apple-esque young comms company CEO, and Jason Bourne's just-when-I-thought-I-was-out-they-dragged-me-back-in super-spy-assassin bringing the whole house down, whilst Alicia Vikander's cyber-ops specialist struggles her way through an initially dodgy accent to play both sides in her own ambitious quest for promotion. All the while Vincent Cassel's deadly assassin is tracking Bourne across continents, holding his own grudge and dispatching everybody in his path – friend or foe – just to get to his target.
Jason Bourne is like a best-of compilation of the first three films in the series.
Really, this entry is utterly redundant; The Bourne Supremacy covered much the same ground in a far better way, and even The Bourne Ultimatum already took things to the next level in terms of "grand conspiracy involving Bourne's past". Jason Bourne thinks that it's peeling back a new layer, but it's actually only retreading the same ground.
Ironically, though, despite all of this, it's damn good to see Greengrass back in the director's chair and Damon back on screen in the role that defines the franchise. The first act is a lesson in expertly executed high tension action; the climactic car chase is suitably bone-crunching; Greengrass's handle on tech surveillance is almost unparalleled; and Damon still convinces as a kick-ass super-spy. It's an enjoyable 2 hours of spy action-thriller, handled adeptly by two leading proponents in the sub-genre. Indeed, in many respects, it is a far more worthy entry than Renner's enjoyable but ultimately disposable detour, but you can't help but wonder whether they could have done something different this time around, particularly if they hadn't taken that gap year out.
Bourne's tale has come full circle so many times now it feels like he's doing doughnuts, and as enjoyable as it is having them both back, I hope there's something more to this franchise than just black ops programs, shady CIA bosses and clashing assassins. When it first came along, The Bourne Identity was something different; something fresh. Supremacy was a relentless, near-perfect sequel; an exercise in non-stop tension and very personal revenge stakes which developed an intimate yet expansive tale exquisitely. Ultimatum and Legacy both tried to paint a bigger picture that was arguably unnecessary, to enjoyable but increasingly familiar/redundant effect. And Jason Bourne largely does the same, whilst simultaneously showing that the Greengrass/Damon duo have still got it. The question is, will they ever do anything new with it?
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